Why is Kata Important?
You may wonder why Okinawan karateka train kata repeatedly in rote fashion. Many may believe that Okinawan karate training is fighting nightly against an opponent--and of course many fine karate dojo do just that.
However, Okinawan karate ka also want to see their body and mind as the "sword never used" and good kata training is " sharping that sword" . Kata is an intricate part of karate. With the repeated regimen of kata , the practitioners brain will literately rewire and change so that one can apply the waza ( technique) without cognitive thought. This in turn, calibrates the body to allow one to defend and attack at the definitive moment with precision.
The mindset of Okinawan karate is not necessarily about "self defense " ...rather it's about preparation for the attack. This means the preparation mind-set is trained diligently, not necessarily offensive techniques. Repeated kata training allows one to respond to the assailants initial attack. This first defense is very important because this is the "sword that has been sharpened " and has "never been used"--It's first "cut" will be "deep".
This means each technique has been thoroughly drilled and understood by the karate ka. It also means the karate ka has conditioned his or her body intelligently without injury . That way each technique is applied with intent and without thought or decision. Each technique is to be used appropriately and with the goal to end the opponent 's next movement. To get the full benefit from that "first cut" one has to condition the appendage being used in the technique and apply kiai.
That being said, one cannot rely on the "first cut" alone. With repeated kata training the karate ka is allowed to flow and adapt to the quick changing nuances of an engagement. Every time an opportune moment presents itself the karate ka must use it with the mind set of ending the engagement quickly with the "first cut." With well executed repeated kata training , each new nuance of the engagement will be recognized as an opportune moment for the karate ka to apply the "first cut."
Kata is preformed as a whole set of moves. But the individual movements, turns, footwork etc are studied with focused intent. But without the rewiring of the brain through rote kata training , the technique will be applied incorrectly and in an untimely manner allowing ones opponent to take full advantage.
As years pass and one grows with karate , kata training becomes as routine as ones morning regimen. One realizes with time that karate as a defense is a mix and match usage of technique pulled from various kata that one knows almost instinctively.
Using a "sword" in battle that is not been "chipped " or "weathered " will cut deeply and precisely. Continuous proper kata practice is one of the many "sharpening stones" of karate.